iTunes + TED = significant entertainment-–and occasional revelation

I use iTunes on my laptop to scoop up the stuff I want to see and hear. I use it because I can do all this off-line. Here in China, the network throughput is sometimes frustratingly slow, so I just ‘set it and forget it’  as they say. What of it?

I recently found that I could add a subscription from TED to my iTunes library. TED (Technology, Entertainment, and something, I’ll go look it up, ah here it is: Design) is a storehouse of five to twenty-minute videos on everything under the sun, by some of the world’s coolest people. It looks like TED can stream one new episode every day to you if you wish. I have been absorbed in their presentations for some time now. If you need an “Oh, wow!” moment…

Most recently, I happened upon a video from Roger Ebert, the writer, reviewer, philosopher and all-around cool dude who recently almost lost his head to cancer. This is the guy we all watched on TV voting thumbs up or down on our favorite movies. For reasons I never understood, it seemed that whatever he and Gene Siskel (the other guy) didn’t like was sure to please me whenever I got the chance to watch on of the movies they reviewed. Oh, well. Great minds think alike. Which means…OK, skip it.

What kept me watching his TED presentation was the interesting method he used to present his talk. He doesn’t speak any more. Or eat. Or drink. He used the synthesized voice in his Mac notebook to deliver some of his presentation, but had several friends read parts of it as well.

It was fascinating. You have to see this.

Because he is a figure of some notoriety, he’s been featured in magazine articles, notably one about his autobiography, titled Life Itself. Of the several excerpts quoted in the magazine is this one:

On how to write ‘fast’

“[In high school] I was a subscriber to the Great Lead Theory, which teaches that a story must have an opening paragraph so powerful that it leaves few readers still standing. Grantland Rice’s ‘Four Horsemen’ lead was my ideal. [Sportswriter Bill] Lyon watched as I ripped one sheet of copy paper after another out of my typewriter and finally gave me the most useful advice I have ever received as a writer: ‘One, don’t wait for inspiration, just start the damn thing. Two, once you begin, keep on until the end. How do you know how the story should begin until you find out where it’s going?’ These rules saved me half a career’s worth of time and gained me a reputation as the fastest writer in town. I’m not faster. I spend less time not writing.”

So there’s Roger’s advice to bloggers everywhere, and aspiring writers, too.

Don’t wait for inspiration, just start the damned thing.

Thanks for sharing, Mr. Ebert. And thanks for having us over for dinner.